TOP SECRET! Seriously?

Why was the testimony of Victoria Adams stamped “TOP SECRET”?

The short answer is, I have no idea.

There are three classification levels used by the US government for what it considers “sensitive” material: Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret. Confidential, the lowest rank, is described as information that would cause “damage” to national security if publically released without authorization. Secret would be deemed to cause “serious damage.” Top Secret, the highest and most critical level, would result in “exceptionally grave damage.”

I’ve been told the government frowns upon what it calls “over classification.” So why was it felt Vicki’s words would cause “exceptionally grave damage” to the national security of the United States? Could it be because she had once been a nun?

I don’t think so.

At this point, readers should be aware of the distinction between the two versions of Vicki’s official testimony:  one that appears in the 26 volumes stating she waived her right to review and sign it (below),

And a second more recently released version which she actually did sign after making handwritten corrections (below).

I first read a steno’s transcript of Vicki’s official testimony in 1968 at the National Archives in downtown Washington. This was the unsigned version that displayed a prominent “TOP SECRET” stamp on the top and bottom of each of its 23 pages, with a declassification date of November 1967. Although it was not made available at the Archives back then, the front cover to an identical copy of her testimony provided by the Gerald R. Ford Library in Ann Arbor shows this notation in red in the upper right corner:

“This document contains information affecting the national defense of the United States within the meaning of the Espionage Laws Title 18 USC, Sections 793 and 794. The transmission or the revelation of its contents in any manner to an unauthorized person is prohibited by law.”

Espionage? Vicki Adams?

I don’t think so.

Section 793 of that Code would apply if, for instance, Vicki had slyly snapped photographs or made sketches while flying over naval yards, arsenals, research labs, fueling posts, forts, signal stations, torpedo bases, or any other authoritatively clammed up facility. Section 794 lists the penalties if, for instance, Vicki discreetly met with a foreign spy at Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse to pass along such ill-gotten gains.

Vicki also disclosed in her testimony that she was wearing trendy three-inch heels. Was that the shocker the government wanted held back from fashion-deprived devushkas?

I don’t think so.

As they appear in the Archives, the depositions of some mild-mannered witnesses—Jack Dougherty, Barbara Rowland and Anne Boudreaux, for example—also show baffling Top Secret classifications. Others, like Forrest Sorrels and Bill Decker, are labeled Confidential. Jim Leavelle, who started out at Top Secret, was reduced to Confidential under Executive Order 10501, a rather obscure 1953 Eisenhower edict that again focused on US defense and security matters. Then there were those who seemed more liable of possessing skeletons, such as Sylvia Odio, Edwin Walker, and Carlos Bringuier, who lacked any designation whatsoever.

I have no idea who made those classifications. So I asked Howard Willens about all this and he said, “I have no idea who made those classifications. I have no recollection of a discussion of classifications with Lee Rankin. I agree with you that some of the classifications seem inappropriate. I conclude that there was someone along the process that made these judgments.”

Which is odd since it is more often than not the originating agency—in this case the Warren Commission—that decides whether to classify or not classify a document and, if the former, at what classification level it deserves.  But if it wasn’t the Commission’s responsibility, did it fall on the shoulders of the National Archives?

“We took possession of the Warren Commission Records in November of 1964,” explained Gene Morris, a NARA Textual Reference spokesman. “The records included files that were either at the time or had previously been classified Top Secret, Secret, or Confidential. Any declassification done after that date would have been done while the records were in our custody. However, the National Archives does not have declassification authority, so another agency would have declassified them.”

Recall that in the transcript of Vicki’s testimony at the National Archives in 1968 and in her published testimony in the 26 volumes, we are told Vicki “waived” her right to examine and sign off on her deposition. That TOP SECRET transcript had a declassification date of November 21, 1967. There is an identical copy of that testimony in the Gerald Ford Library that also is unsigned and stamped TOP SECRET.

But for some reason this particular copy holds a declassification date of January 23, 1975.

It was this unsigned version of her deposition that the HSCA reviewed during its late-70s investigation.

Then came The Girl on the Stairs, which revealed a previously withheld June 2, 1964 transmittal letter from Dallas written by Asst. US Attorney Martha Joe Stroud. Among other tidbits, the letter disclosed that a second version of Vicki’s testimony now existed. It nonchalantly mentioned that Vicki—sometime after her deposition and before Miss Stroud penned her letter—had been given a copy of her deposition to review, that she had made several grammatical corrections to it, and that she had in fact signed it after all.

As a matter of routine, Miss Stroud was forwarding this now completed transcript to J. Lee Rankin, As a result of the Stroud letter being made public, this new signed and amended version of her testimony was placed in her file in the National Archives.  The unsigned transcript, which previously had resided there for all those years, vanished.

Strangely, this latest version of her deposition shows a third declassification stamp, one dated February 9, 2011.

What all this means is that as of June 1964, the Commission had in hand a properly signed and witness-corrected transcript of Vicki’s official testimony. Why then did it neglect this deposition and instead have the unsigned, uncorrected transcript published?

Did it simply forget about the signed copy?

I don’t think so.

Because if you compare the unsigned transcript with the signed transcript, you’ll find that the unsigned version contains a revision that only shows up on the signed version! That means the signed and corrected version of Vicki’s testimony was not only available to the Commission, but at least one portion of it was altered, and that alteration was then used in her testimony published in the 26 volumes.

On the more recent version of her testimony—that which was declassified only after publication of The Girl on the Stairs—we see this:

Here’s how that section appears in Vicki’s testimony in the 26 volumes:

Miss Adams. That’s correct.
Mr. Belin. It would be slightly east of the front of the east elevator, and probably as far south as the length of the elevator, is that correct?
Miss Adams. Yes, sir
. (6H390)

Notice how Vicki’s words, “At a point which I would describe as slightly to the east and somewhat to the north of the east elevator” (my emphasis) have been stricken from the record. Those missing words are then paraphrased into Belin’s response but with a 90-degree difference: north becomes south.

What this shows is that the later transcript was read, then edited beyond the corrections Vicki made to her deposition (her corrections being ignored). The cross outs were not done by the witness, whose modus operandi was to insert a corrected word using her stylish penmanship, as shown here:

Why would Vicki’s words be edited out, and subsequently changed, when it appears they were nothing more than an innocuous detail regarding someone’s location? Why, after she agreed it was unnecessary, did the Commission still seek to have her review and sign her testimony? Why, now possessing that officially endorsed version that it sought, did the Commission choose instead to submit to the Government Printing Office the less formal transcript?

“It’s unclear why some depositions were labeled with different classifications,” Gene Morris continued. “We reviewed a selection of a dozen or so Key Persons files and we noted that the transcripts for Robert Adams, Vickie [sic] Adams, James Maurice Solomon, and Charles H. Steele, Jr. were all stamped Top Secret, so Ms. Adam’s [sic] deposition is not unique in that regard. Each is speaking of different things and we cannot identify any commonality that would indicate why it was classified at that level or at all. At this point, we have no idea why the classifications were made the way they were.”

I also have no idea why her testimony needed three separate declassifications: the unsigned, uncorrected versions at the National Archives in 1967 and the Gerald Ford Library in 1975, and the signed, corrected version in the National Archives as recently as 2011.

That alone does not denote sinister implications. But it certainly is strange, as many I’ve questioned about this agree. So I asked Howard Willens why he felt there may have been the need for three such actions if the testimony had remained virtually the same throughout and only one declassification seemed sufficient. His reply?

“I have no idea.”

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What the Others Said

The affable Dick and Jane kids had been a classroom staple for decades by the time Scott Foresman and Company took over most of the fourth floor of the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas.

Thirteen people worked in that regional office. Joe Bergin, the manager, happened to be at the publishing company’s headquarters in Chicago on November 22, 1963. He therefore missed all the action. But the dozen other employees—all women—were in a position by noon or shortly after to watch the presidential parade either at ground level or from their office windows high above Dealey Plaza.

Four months later—in March 1964—those women became part of an FBI roundup of every Depository employee who happened to be at work that fateful day. For most Scott Foresman workers, this quick questioning would be their first and only recorded interview. And perhaps due to the perfunctory nature of the agency’s inquiry, very little relevant information was obtained from the girls on the fourth floor.

All except for Victoria Adams, who became a focus of attention and was the only one of the twelve to end up being deposed by the Warren Commission.

But what about the other women? Brief as their statements were, what did they have to tell us?

Eight of them elected to remain on the fourth floor. The most congested spot was behind the third set of double windows from the eastern corner of the building.  That’s where Vicki Adams, Dorothy Garner, Sandra Styles, and Elsie Dorman were located. Minutes before the president’s appearance, one of those windows was raised slightly, as shown in the accompanying photograph taken by James Powell.

Mrs. Garner, 35, was the office supervisor. She was described as being astute, and her manner of speaking in her March interview ensures that trait. On November 22, she was in charge of the office, taking over for the absent Joe Bergin. Mrs. Garner was a 10-year veteran with Scott Foresman.  Echoing Vicki’s earlier words, Dorothy Garner told the FBI she heard “three loud reports” she first thought were fireworks that seemed to originate “from a point to the west of the building.”

Sandra Styles, 24, was an office service representative like Vicki. She did not say how many shots she heard, but described them as sounding like fireworks. She didn’t offer an opinion as to their source.

Elsie Dorman, 57, remembered hearing “a noise like gunshots,” but she couldn’t say where they came from.  She was more focused on steadying her husband’s new motion picture camera while seated on the floor filming the approaching motorcade out that partially opened window mentioned earlier.

Standing behind windows just to the west of Vicki’s group were Ruth Nelson, 67, and Yola Hopson, 65. In that series of employee interviews in which the FBI sought so little, Mrs. Nelson had even less to offer. But Mrs. Hopson, who worked in the mailing department, was a bit more expressive. She said she heard an “unrecalled number of loud noises” that also sounded like firecrackers. She would have seen more, she admitted, had it not been for a tree blocking her view. Mrs. Hopson had been subjected to questioning earlier—on December 4, 1963—during which she told the FBI that “…it did not sound to her like the sounds were coming from her building, and that she was not alert to the possibility of someone fleeing that building after the shots.”

Mary Hollies, 24, a Canadian by birth, also worked in the mailing department. She watched the proceedings with co-worker Betty Foster. Hollies said she heard three shots, saw the president “slump over,” but didn’t offer an estimation as to where those shots came from. She did acknowledge seeing pictures of Lee Oswald in newspapers and on television and remembered him as a guy she had spotted in the second-floor lunchroom that routinely was used by many of the Depository’s clerical staff.

Clerk Betty Foster, 28, admitted standing next to Mary Hollies in the stockroom. She offered little more than saying she felt the sounds she heard were fireworks.

Although only Vicki Adams and Sandra Styles would specifically mention in their March reports what they did immediately after the assassination, most of the others “milled around in the office,” Mrs. Hopson would tell the FBI.  Several of them then hurried to west-facing windows on the same floor directly outside the Scott Foresman office. That gave them a better vantage point to spy on what was happening in the railroad yards below. From her position now on the fourth-floor landing, Dorothy Garner watched these women emerge from the office. They were also noticed by worker Bonnie Ray Williams as he descended the nearby back stairs from the fifth floor a few minutes after the shooting.

Four other employees ventured outside to observe the passing motorcade. Judyth McCully, the youngest at 20, said she “heard some shots fired but did not know the direction from which they came.” Miss McCully also admitted seeing photos of Oswald in the media and identified him as someone she too had seen in the second-floor lunchroom.

(She and Mary Hollies were not the only ones who noticed him there.  For instance, in a November 28, 2017 interview with the Sixth Floor Museum, second-floor clerk Karen Westbrook Scranton said she and other clerical staff typically ate their noon meal in that lunchroom. “Lee always sat” at a bank of chairs just inside the door, she recalled, while she and several ladies usually “sat in the back end.” She said Oswald “always ate alone…was always reading,” and “wasn’t terribly friendly. We felt sorry for him.”)

On November 24, McCully told the FBI she was on the fourth floor during the shooting. But in her March meeting with that agency, she corrected her earlier statement to say she was actually standing on the front steps of the Depository with co-worker Avery Davis. It appears the November 24 statement was in error since Mrs. Davis, another office service representative, recalled Miss McCully standing next to her at the front entrance. Mrs. Davis’s position was corroborated by Vicki Adams, who testified she saw her at the Depository’s entrance and spoke briefly with her several minutes after the shooting.

Regarding the shots, Mrs. Davis related she heard “three explosions” and “thought they were from the direction of the viaduct which crosses Elm Street west from where I was standing.”  

Also in front of the building were Betty Thornton, 34, who described the sounds she heard as “firecrackers being discharged.”  She was there with Jane Berry, 23, who “observed the President slump over” after hearing three shots, but didn’t comment as to their direction.

Of those who ended up offering an opinion, none said the sounds they heard—shots, fireworks, or otherwise—came from above them where the ‘”sniper’s nest” was placed, or even from the Depository itself.  All the women were dismissed from work about 2:30 that afternoon. All would return to their desks the day after John Kennedy’s funeral.

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The Adams/Belin Encounter

David Belin had a light schedule on April 7, 1964. As one of a two-man team looking into the true identity of JFK’s assassin—a conclusion many would say the Warren Commission already had determined by that date—Belin was in Dallas to question witnesses he had recommended back in February. But on this particular Tuesday, he had only three appointments. At 9:15 that morning, he talked with Dallas Police Officer W. E. Barnes, apparently so inconsequential he would not even be mentioned in the Warren Report. Then at 4 p.m. came Dealey Plaza witness Barbara Rowland, whose words—despite promises to the contrary made by Belin—would be used to discredit the testimony of her husband, Arnold, who a month earlier had revealed he saw two men on the sixth floor.

Sandwiched in between those witnesses, at 2:15 p.m., was Victoria Adams

A week earlier—on April Fool’s Day coincidentally—Belin had questioned Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig. Craig would later say that his testimony had been altered “and key words had been taken out to make it read different than it should.”

Now Miss Adams, don’t you think you could be wrong?

Victoria Adams would echo much the same regarding her brush with that attorney.

“I didn’t like him,” she told me, “I thought he was a pompous jerk, full of himself and his own power, impressed with himself and manipulative.”

Vicki expanded on that notion:  

“When I gave my deposition to the Warren Commission attorney, he was another of those patronizing types. When I went into the office he was using, he did not stand up, as was the custom in the South when a woman entered the room. He stayed seated. Then he told me he was going to ask me some questions and he wanted me to answer them without elaboration. So he went through all of the questions he had. I answered. He told me that all my answers and his questions were ‘off the record,’ and that he would invite a court reporter in to take my actual deposition and I was to answer exactly what I said to him—no variations. During the informal part, he leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms and looked at me straight. ‘Now Miss Adams, don’t you think you could be wrong? Memory is a funny thing and tricks some people.’ I looked him straight in the eye and said, ‘I could be, but I’m not wrong. I know what I saw, what I did and what I heard.’

“He told me at the end of the questioning he would ask me if I had anything to add that I hadn’t mentioned up to then. I was supposed to say, ‘No,’ as I had in my initial session. But I didn’t. As I started speaking, he looked startled, especially when I talked about seeing Jack Ruby on the corner across the street from the Depository building. That subject had not come up in the original question and answer session.

“He thanked me for my time and I left.” 

But the sting of that encounter would persist for many years.

“You can imagine I felt stupid and like a fool when I read the book [the Warren Report] when it came out. I felt treated like a moronic child. The echoes of that attorney’s words haunted me, ‘Now, Miss Adams, don’t you think you could be wrong?’ I kept asking why the Warren Commission wasn’t calling for Sandra Styles. In fact, during the initial briefing before my testimony was taken by the attorney, I asked him why they didn’t call Sandra Styles.”

That appeal seemed logical, especially since Belin months earlier had cited the importance to determining precisely when Vicki had run down the stairs. Co-worker Sandra Styles, who had accompanied Vicki, sounded like the perfect candidate to help resolve this issue. Yet Belin’s response to Vicki’s request was inconsistent with his previous comment.  

“He said they didn’t need her,” Vicki noted.  “They had me.”

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Tale of the Tape

Faithful readers know by now that the original stenographer’s tape containing the tamper-free testimony of Victoria Adams is missing from the National Archives.

The loss of that historical record is unsettling. It goes against the preservation orders set forth by the Commission. And it appears suspicious since Vicki’s words opened up a rabbit hole for the government’s storyline of how Oswald escaped from the sixth floor—or if he was even up there at all.

In 1964, that kind of tape was like toilet paper: it was used right up until the roll ran out. It had a unique style of machine shorthand that virtually eliminated alteration. The tape flowed from a stenographer’s version of a typewriter in one long, narrow, and continuous strip of paper that folded itself accordion style. Kept intact, the elimination of one person’s testimony from that strip meant the elimination of all others appearing on the same spool.

Including Vicki, a dozen witnesses were deposed in Dallas that day, April 7, 1964. Their names, the attorney who conducted the questioning, and the time of each deposition follows:

David Belin

9:15 – W. E. D. Barnes (DPD officer)

2:15 – Victoria Adams

4:00 – Barbara Rowland (Dealey Plaza witness)

Joseph Ball and Samuel Stern

9:30 – James R. Leavelle (DPD detective)

2:15 – Danny Arce (TSBD employee)

2:45 – Geneva Hine (credit office, TSBD second floor)

3:10 – J. B. Hicks (DPD officer)

3:20 – Doris Burns (Macmillan Co. correspondent, TSBD third floor)

3:50 – Billy Lovelady (TSBD employee)

4:10 – William Shelley (TSBD manager)

4:40 – Earle Brown (DPD officer)

4:50 – Joe Molina (TSBD employee)

Curiously, four of those listed have either a direct or peripheral connection to the Vicki Adams’ story.

William Shelley and Billy Lovelady, of course, are the most critical since the Commission used their words to discredit Vicki.  In her testimony, Vicki is quoted as saying she saw those two on the first floor when she arrived there within a minute after the assassination. But how could that be if she came down that fast and both men testified they remained outside for several minutes following the shooting?  Vicki contends she did not say she saw them, and the Shelley/Lovelady passage was inserted into a later transcript of her testimony to make her appear wrong. Certainly the Commission’s unstudied conclusion that Vicki was confused and descended later than she thought avoided having to explain why she didn’t see or hear anyone on the same stairs when, if she was indeed accurate with her timing, Oswald should have been there.

James Leavelle interviewed Vicki on the night of February 17, 1964, under suspicious circumstances. He told her, for instance, he was there because a fire at police headquarters had destroyed Vicki’s earlier file. Despite previous questioning by several different authorities, this was the first time—now three months after the assassination—in which Vicki mentions the names Shelley and Lovelady. 

After descending the stairs Vicki went out the rear door, then in a few moments returned to the front entrance.  There, she noticed Joe Molina. Since Molina testified he only briefly remained outside before going back to work, Vicki’s sighting of him lends support for her swift descent, exit, and return to the building.  Molina, who was questioned late in the afternoon that day, should have been asked about Vicki since, during her earlier session, she specifically brought up his name, and Molina was being questioned about who he saw while standing outside. (Also at the front entrance, Vicki spotted and actually conversed with another employee, Avery Davis, who likely was spared the same fate as those above since she was never examined by the Commission.)

The evidence remains consistent with Vicki coming down the stairs exactly as she testified.  Therefore, if she really did say in her testimony that she saw Shelley and Lovelady on the first floor, then those men lied under oath for some reason about remaining outside. But if she really didn’t say she saw them, then her testimony was falsified.

That’s why the first-generation stenotype tape is so important.

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Vicki Through The Years

In her words, Vicki successfully “low-profiled” her past after Dallas. Her husband advised it. Close friends were kept in the dark. Still others never made a connection. At most, the name Victoria Adams was linked only to a lead singer of the Spice Girls.

“I tend to be reclusive,” she once admitted. “I thought I was this private person, a roving gypsy who lit and flitted through life.”

Supporting that itinerant notion were repeated job changes, six uninterrupted years drifting along the blue highways of America, and a Warren Commission that effectively dismissed her on seemingly reasonable grounds.

The self-styled ‘gypsy” with her husband Skip, here enjoying New Mexico in 1993

What little that was available about her came mainly from her scanty official testimony and a cursory FBI interview stuffed deep into the 26 volumes. A few other documents popped up, but only by way of in-person searches at the National Archives. Some of the pioneers who scoured such evidence came across her comments and were drawn to three areas of interest: when she came down the stairs (“immediately”), where she felt the shots came from (“the right below rather than from the left above”), and who she saw outside (a man “very similar” in appearance to Jack Ruby).

Her first open mention occurred in Mark Lane’s 1966 book, Rush to Judgment. Briefly noting her quick descent from the fourth floor of the Depository, Lane focused instead on her implication shots originated from the grassy knoll (p. 110), and her probable sighting of Ruby in a place he shouldn’t have been (pp. 262-63).

She was later talked into appearing with Lane as a guest on the Mort Sahl show in Los Angeles. She discussed her whole story then, but was disappointed with the result. “They were only interested in whether or not I had seen Ruby,” Vicki said. “So I just gave up.”

Sylvia Meagher, however, set her sights on the critical stairway angle. “We now revert to Victoria Adams,” she wrote in Accessories After the Fact, “bearing in mind that if her story is accurate it decisively invalidates the Warren Commission’s hypothesis about Oswald’s movements between 12: 30 and 12:33 pm” (pp. 72-74).  Published in 1967, one must wonder why such recognized significance was never pursued.

Harold Weisberg took a slightly different track. In 1967’s Photographic Whitewash, he used Vicki’s statement that her view of the motorcade was temporarily obstructed by an oak tree in an attempt to pinpoint the president’s position when the first shot struck him (pp. 51-52).

Also that year, Josiah Thompson in Six Seconds in Dallas listed Vicki as one more who felt shots came from the knoll.  To his credit he clarified that labeling by citing what she actually had said: “below & to the right” (p. 254).

“And I was even in Playboy magazine,” Vicki teased one day. Indeed she was, but not how most might think. In a lengthy February 1967 Playboy interview with Mark Lane, the attorney brought up her name, telling readers that based on her testimony, she was on the stairway at the same time as Oswald. “He wasn’t there,” Lane quoted Vicki as saying.

Misspelling her name, Jim Bishop in 1968 wrote this colorful and imaginative prose in The Day Kennedy Was Shot: “Not many, even in the plaza, noticed the group of girls squealing with anticipation on the fourth floor of the School Book Depository. They clasped and unclasped their hands with delight as the lead car approached. The office belonged to Vickie Adams. She had invited her friends, Sandra Styles, Elsie Dorman, and Dorothy May Garner to watch with her. The girls were thrilled because of the exceptional view, looking downward into the car, and the possibility of seeing the youthful, attractive First Lady and what she was wearing. The girls were prepared to discuss Mrs. Kennedy’s shoes, gloves, hat, coiffure, even the roses” (pp. 168-69).

In 1968’s Moment of Madness: The People vs. Jack Ruby, Elmer Gertz writes: “Victoria Adams is cited by [Mark] Lane as a witness to Ruby’s presence at the scene of the assassination. Her only comment was that the man she saw looked ‘very similar’ to Ruby. Her testimony indicated that the man she saw was probably on the corner for more than fifteen minutes [his emphasis], which exceeded the maximum time that Ruby could have spent there in order to return to the [Dallas Morning News] newspaper office on time” (p. 526).

Warren Commission attorney David Belin, who took Vicki’s official testimony in 1964, used the exact same arguments from back then to discredit her all over again—this time to even greater lengths—in his 1973 book, November 22: You Are the Jury (pp. 268-71). As a result of his initial questioning of Vicki, he pointed out in his book, “[Joseph] Ball and I had come to another dead end in our efforts to establish the innocence of Oswald or the existence of a co-conspirator.”

Despite showing an interest in Vicki, the HSCA failed to acknowledge her in its 1979 final report.

“Indeed, one witness, Victoria Adams, testified she was on the stairway at that time, and heard no one,” David Lifton correctly penned in his 1980 best seller, Best Evidence. “The Commission concluded she was wrong as to when she was coming down the stairs” (p. 351).

Only snippets of her story were presented in 1989’s wide-ranging Crossfire by Jim Marrs (pp. 44, 53, and 325).

But Oswald had his long-awaited day in court in Walt Brown’s 1992 The People v. Lee Harvey Oswald. In this fiction-based-on-fact courtroom drama, Appendix A reveals that Vicki was subpoenaed as a witness for the imaginary trial but, true to form, was not called to testify (p. 613).

Vicki made her silver screen debut in 1992’s hit movie JFK. Oliver Stone portrayed her running down the stairs as a frenzied Lee Oswald rushes by, a taunt by the director at how it had to be if the Warren Commission’s scenario of that particular event were true.  The actress who depicted Vicki was not named in the credits.

The girl on the stairs, courtesy of Oliver Stone in the 1992 movie JFK

The real Victoria Adams is alphabetically listed as a witness in two encyclopedic paperbacks: 1992’s The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James Duffy and Vincent Ricci (p. 5), and 1993’s Who’s Who in the JFK Assassination by Michael Benson (also p. 5).

Vicki’s “immediate” run down the stairs is elevated in 1993 to taking “at least four to five minutes after the third shot”—an opinion introduced by way of a footnote, no less—in Gerald Posner’s Case Closed (p. 264). Posner reportedly smiled and quietly walked away when shown a document by a fellow researcher that contradicted his inflated time estimate and instead corroborated her speediness.

She’s noted only as a looker-on to the story of co-worker Elsie Dorman’s jumpy attempt at filming the presidential motorcade from their fourth-floor perch in Richard Trask’s 1994 Pictures of the Pain (pp. 443 and 445).

Coverup, written in 1998 by Stewart Galanor, correctly cites Vicki’s testimony where she said the sound of the shots “seemed as if it came from the right below rather than from the left above” (p. 75).  Yet a bit later, Galanor lists her as still another witness who felt the shots came from the knoll (p. 171).

In Murder in Dealey Plaza, a collection of articles edited by James H. Fetzer and published in 2000, you’ll find Vicki’s actions between 12:30 and 12:32 described chronologically as part of “Part I: The Day JFK Was Shot” (pp. 45-46).

Professor Gerald McKnight provides a general account of Vicki’s statements and actions in 2005’s Breach of Trust. But then he writes “immediately after the assassination Adams gave the same account to Dallas police detective James R. Leavelle” (pp. 113-14). Actually, Vicki gave that account to Leavelle nearly three months after the assassination. And in footnotes on page 377 (#13 and #17), McKnight says that Vicki corrected her Warren Commission testimony on February 17, 1964, a task hard to imagine since her testimony didn’t take place until April 7, 1964. The February 17 date was when she was interviewed by Leavelle.

Her name takes on the more fashionable “Ms. Adams” in G. Paul Chambers 2010 book Head Shot (p. 61). And she is christened as a possible assassin, of all things, in Vincent Bugliosi’s 2007 tome, Reclaiming History. “Why not?” he asks, hopefully in jest for his sake. “Women can pull triggers too, you know” (p. 832).

Once The Girl on the Stairs was commercially published in 2013, Vicki’s full narrative finally became known. Had she lived to see it happen, it’s doubtful she would have changed her style.

“You know what?” she told me one day. “Here is the truth: I want nothing. I do not crave fame nor fortune. I just want to help you since it has been so terribly important to you. I just want someone to hear the truth. Should your book be published before I die, I do not want anyone to know where I am. I want no publicity. And I know on an inner level that you will respect my confidentiality.”

As hoped, The Girl prompted further discussions and studies of this overlooked woman. Yet it still didn’t stop the occasional errors of fact. For instance, Jerome Corsi in his 2013 book Who Really Killed Kennedy? devotes a section to Vicki that he titles “The Girl in [sic] the Stairs.” He tells readers Vicki “produced for Ernest a 1964 letter her attorney had written to J. Lee Rankin…complaining that someone had made changes in her deposition, altering her meaning” (pp. 94-95). Vicki didn’t produce the letter; it was discovered in the National Archives. The letter was written to Rankin by Asst. U.S. Attorney Martha Joe Stroud, who certainly was not counsel to Vicki. And the letter merely listed a few grammatical corrections Vicki had noted after reviewing a transcript of her deposition. It contained no complaints about changes that altered her meaning. That would surface later.

Also in 2013, Flip de May, gave Vicki the dues she had been denied. In a lengthy segment of Cold Case Kennedy, he traced Vicki’s step-by-step journey down the stairs in an elaborate and graphic timeline (pp. 351-62). He titled that part of his book “The women on the stairs,” the plural alluding to a neglected coworker who had accompanied Vicki.

And again in 2013, historian James DiEugenio offered up an accurate and thorough examination of Vicki’s unabridged account in Reclaiming Parkland (pp. 91-95).

The most recent mention of Vicki appears in Vince Palamara’s latest book, Honest Answers about the Murder of President John F. Kennedy: A New Look at the JFK Assassination. In this March 2021 volume, the author calls her version of events a “game changer” because “it proves that Oswald could not have been firing a rifle up on the sixth floor” (p. 110).

Today, additional considerations of Vicki are being planned.

Many years ago, Vicki tried to tell authorities her side of the story. “I said it so many times I got tired of saying it,” she once explained. But nobody wanted to hear it back then. “No one wanted to believe anything else other than what they wanted to believe.”     

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The Lunchroom Encounter

I was asked the other day if I thought the second-floor lunchroom encounter between Baker, Truly, and Oswald was legitimate, if maybe it had never occurred and instead was fabricated to divert public attention from where Oswald really was when the shots were fired.

It reminded me of two things, one of which seemed so slight at the time it never really made much of a footprint.

It was March 20, 1968. I was fortunate to be sitting in Roy Truly’s office, in part because I had told him I was from far-away Pennsylvania.

“Philadelphia?” he inquired.

No, I said, a small town I was quite sure he had never heard of. And I was right.

He told me he had once dealt with a newspaper reporter from Philly named “Lee.” He couldn’t remember if that was his first or last name. But it had stuck in his mind—even after nearly five years of media grilling—because of a former employee by the name of “Lee” Oswald.

Anyway, I made a mental note and began rummaging through a bunch of press clippings when I returned home. Sure enough I found articles written by an Adrian Lee of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. One in particular was a multi-columned, name-filled narrative of what occurred in Dallas that most newsworthy of weekends. (Lee died in 2011. He had joined the Bulletin in 1948 and won several honors, one a “best-writing award” for his coverage of the JFK assassination.)

I was curious enough to call Lee that week, who kindly spent some time telling me of his newsman’s involvement. Then he offered up a personal tidbit.

Seems that very early on November 23, the morning after the assassination, he had tried to reach Roy Truly by phone at his home. His wife answered only to tell Lee her husband had already returned to the Depository.  Lee said Mrs. Truly was nice, willing to chat, and volunteered a detailed story. She told Lee when Truly arrived home the previous evening—shortly after 7 p.m.—he related to her how he and a policeman had met Oswald in a second-floor lunchroom not long after the shooting. Mrs. Truly said her husband described Oswald as being a bit startled—”Wouldn’t you be?” I remember Lee asking me—as the officer pointed a gun at him. But otherwise, Truly told his wife Oswald was composed and unshaken. She also admitted that her husband felt a bit guilty, wishing he had known then what he later found out.     

Interesting, I thought, but just another tree in the forest.

In a related episode (although I didn’t make the connection then), I interviewed Lt. Carl Day on Oct. 6, 1999. I recall it being a rather lengthy and rambling phone conversation. But during it, Day started describing his actions on the afternoon of the assassination.

“I lifted the gun from where it was found and one live round was ejected. Then I took the gun back to the department, locked it up, and returned to the Depository. I spoke with Truly then, who related the story of running up to the second floor after the shots and seeing Oswald standing at the coke machine.”

Day told me he returned to the Depository at 3 p.m., the time he also used in his Warren Commission testimony. He said he stayed there until 6 p.m.

Somewhere in that three-hour period, FBI agent Nat Pinkston talked with both Day and Truly. Pinkston then penned a summary memo to his boss describing his afternoon’s activities, further stating, “Lt. Day was at this time at the book depository and the gun was at the PD.” In the same memo, Pinkston wrote that Truly mentioned to him about going up the stairs with a police officer and seeing Oswald in a second-floor “snack bar.”

I suppose the point to all this is that if the second-floor lunchroom incident was fictitious, it certainly had to be invented rather quickly. It had to be thought up, pulled together, and brought into line—rehearsed, one might say—with a handful of consenting adults prior to Truly telling his wife about it shortly after his arrival home at 7 o’clock that very night. In fact, it somehow had to be manufactured before Carl Day heard it from Truly not long after Day’s return to the Depository at 3 p.m.

Does the unlikelihood of such a hastily contrived scenario mean the confrontation really was real and it took place exactly as officially described? Not necessarily, but the timing of when this presumed myth originated must be an important consideration.  How could it have been concocted not the next day, not later that weekend as things fell into place, but within only a few hours of the assassination and before much of the evidence was even known?

And yes, I’m familiar with the contradictions to the official story.

I’m well aware that Officer Marrion Baker initially thought the incident had occurred on a different floor; that a local reporter “overheard” Truly saying he saw Oswald on the first floor right after the shooting; that a New York paper quoted TSBD VP Ochus Campbell that day as saying much the same thing; that Oswald himself admitted to being on the first floor when the shots were fired.

Never mind that Baker was unfamiliar with the building’s layout; that journalism school (at least in my day) does not teach students to print stories based on eavesdropping; that Campbell never mentioned observing Oswald when he completed an official FBI report under oath (in fact, in that report he went so far as to say he was “not personally acquainted” with Oswald and “has never seen him”); that Oswald himself stated he was in the second-floor lunchroom when confronted by a policeman. In fact, he made that admission during his first interrogation session that began at 2:30 that afternoon and while Truly, Day, and Pinkston were still at the Depository.

Counters to these conflicts might be that Truly and Baker lied after being threatened; that Pinkston was the mastermind of this charade for national security reasons; that an earwigged comment really is the most reliable of all journalistic sources; that Campbell changed his story after being threatened; that Oswald fibbed about being on the second floor, or he was misquoted, or his interrogators lied—after being threatened.

Citing media dispatches from that weekend can be risky. Press reporting was grossly inadequate and misleading (so bad it was a topic of discussion in my J-school legal classes nearly ten years later). From such luminaries as Dan Rather and Bob Clark the public was told other people had been shot in Dealey Plaza and taken to the hospital; that the assassin fired from the fifth floor, then ran to the sixth to hide his rifle; that LBJ was shot, Gov. Connally was hit in the head, and a Secret Service agent had been “confirmed” killed; that JFK arrived at Parkland Hospital by bus; that a man and a woman fired at the president.

Funny, in hindsight.

But in a debate on the merits of the lunchroom encounter—just like so many other singular aspects of this crime—one must take into no-nonsense account the critical timing issue. Exactly when did this supposed fantasy first surface, why was it deemed necessary, and who could have efficiently put together and coordinated something like that so fast with a whole lot of uncertainties still in the air?

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Setting It Straight

My reply to John Armstrong’s attack of Victoria Adams with a clear eye toward cleaning up the assumptions he makes regarding the evidence:

In a recent website article titled “Oswald DID NOT Run Down the Stairs” (his emphasis), researcher/author John Armstrong dissects the story of Victoria Adams. He wholeheartedly upholds her account that she descended the back stairs of the Texas School Book Depository immediately after the assassination. But he takes strong exception to statements she made to me that she DID NOT (my emphasis) see employees William Shelley and Billy Lovelady when she arrived on the first floor.

Vicki is quoted in her Warren Commission testimony as saying Shelley and Lovelady were there. Yet those two men claimed they remained outside the Depository for some 10 minutes after the assassination. This apparent contradiction between Miss Adams’ prompt descent while claiming she saw two men still outside is what the Commission used to discredit her.

Armstrong thinks her statement before the Commission—that she saw Shelley and Lovelady—is gospel. He contends her comments of not seeing those men made some 40 years after the fact should be viewed with skepticism and doubt.

No one agrees more than I.

That doubt is precisely what pushed me to search for the original transcript of her testimony. Did she really say she saw Shelley and Lovelady, or was her testimony doctored as she herself believes? I was looking for the first generation, virtually unalterable, accordion-style paper tape coded by the court stenographer. What I discovered was that this critical tape was missing from the National Archives. A later document revealed it had been destroyed by the Commission, previously on record as promising to preserve such tapes for future inspection.

So, we don’t really know what Vicki said. Or didn’t say. Nevertheless, Armstrong maintains she was word-perfect about seeing those two men, and chastises her for telling me otherwise. He ends up calling her a “hoax.” Knowing about Vicki and her highly principled background, she is the last person who would fabricate a story.

So why is this guy so harsh with her?

In order to answer that, we need to understand John Armstrong.

In 2003, he wrote a book titled “Harvey and Lee.” In it, he claims Lee Harvey Oswald was actually two people: one the publicly recognized assassin “Lee,” the other a mysterious look-alike named “Harvey.” The book was praised for its meticulous detail. But it was also criticized by some on the grounds Armstrong interpreted evidence in a way that reinforced his hypothesis.

Part of Armstrong’s recent foray contends that both Harvey and Lee were cohorts in a plot to kill JFK. And each was present in the Depository on November 22nd. Abettors were there as well, one to help one of the pair of Oswalds escape from the sixth floor, the other to lead the other away from the crime scene.

Enter Shelley and Lovelady…and, by extension, Victoria Adams.

Armstrong’s scenario has Lovelady turning off electrical power in the building from a circuit box on the first floor. This allowed the sniper’s-nest shooter to pry up loose floor boards, safely crawl into the passenger elevator shaft below, then make his way into the elevator compartment and ride to freedom once Lovelady reset the power a couple minutes later. Shelley’s task was less complicated, merely escorting the other confederate out a rear door.

Shelley and Lovelady thus had to be present on the first floor…in a New York minute. Their quick appearance at the back of the building, Armstrong surmises, “is a clear indication that either one or both of these men may have been co-conspirators.” That’s why he favors Vicki’s up-tempo descent and her supposed sighting of both men. But that’s also why he’s so critical of her when she says she really didn’t see those two after all. This is why he has to call Adams’ story a “hoax”.

Since Vicki’s original testimony no longer exists (prompting suspicion by itself), is there other corroboration? 

The best comes from a co-worker, Sandra Styles, who accompanied Vicki to the first floor. She was a perfect witness to not only verify the timing, but also to say who was there when the girls arrived. She was never questioned by the Warren Commission. Funny thing too is that Sandra Styles knew Shelley and Lovelady. In fact, she knew them well. When I tracked her down in 2002, she told me that Shelley and Lovelady definitely were not on the first floor. She repeated that in subsequent interviews, often emphatically. So how does Armstrong handle this?

“Adams’ co-worker, Sandra Styles, followed her from their office on the 4th floor, down the wooden stairs, and onto the 1st floor. As the two women were rushing out of the building, Styles momentarily focused her [eyes] on a policeman hurrying toward the stairs and elevator. Styles’ memory of seeing police (Officer Baker) on the first floor agreed with Adams’ statement of the time that she arrived on the first floor, which was within one minute after the shooting. Styles did not see Shelley or Lovelady, but her vivid memory of the police may explain why she paid little or no attention to other people in the area. Her focus of attention was on the policeman.”

I do not have to check any of my records regarding Sandra Styles to know that she never said she saw a policeman on the first floor. Armstrong fails to source that information. Now I know why.

After sending Sandra that paragraph for a more up-to-date response, she replied that she absolutely did not see a policeman, let alone police, on the first floor that day. She had no clue about where Armstrong got his information. Her only sighting of a cop, she said, was the one sitting on a motorcycle outside the building.

Armstrong gives excessive weight to the day-of affidavits by Shelley and Lovelady in which each imply a rapid re-entry into the Depository. But their later interviews to the FBI and Warren Commission detailing their longer stay outside are considered bogus, having been “changed” in order to avoid culpability.

He elevates Dallas Police Officer Marrion Baker’s observation of seeing two unidentified white men on the first floor as he and building manager Roy Truly rushed toward the back staircase:

“One of these two “white men” was Bill Shelley, who stated in an affidavit to the Dallas Police that he was told “to watch the elevators and not let anyone off.” The only time that Roy Truly could have told Shelley to watch the elevators was moments before he and Officer Baker ran up the stairs—1 and 1/2 minutes after the shooting (his emphasis).”

From the first floor, Baker and Truly sped up the back stairs to the roof where the policeman felt shots may have originated. According to Truly, that round trip took about 10 minutes. It’s conceivable Truly’s request that Shelley oversee the elevators may just as likely have taken place after Truly and Baker returned to the first floor.

Oddly, Armstrong completely ignores the one man all three individuals—Miss Adams, Miss Styles, and Officer Baker—independently told me they noticed near those elevators: a large black man. That is the only person Vicki said she saw and spoke to, not Shelley or Lovelady. That is the only person Miss Styles observed. And that is the same man Baker told me he was about to confront, a la Oswald seconds later, until Truly told him the black man was an employee.

Shelley, Lovelady, and Miss Adams were questioned by Warren Commission staff in April 1964. Vicki went first, followed by Lovelady, then Shelley. Armstrong writes:

“The simple fact is that if Adams had not told the WC, in 1964, that she saw Shelley and Lovelady on the first floor, then the WC would have no reason to question these men about Adams.”

As Armstrong knows, for he already cited this document, the Commission had in hand a February 17, 1964, interview submitted by Dallas Police Detective James Leavelle, in which Miss Adams, for the first and only time since the assassination, is quoted as saying she saw Shelley and Lovelady. Those interested should read that section of my book which discusses the strange circumstances surrounding this unnerving interview, particularly the detective’s explanation that Vicki had to be re-interviewed because a fire at police headquarters had destroyed her earlier file. (See The Girl on the Stairs, pp. 246–47.)

[NOTE: You can read this police report in full. Click on the “Q&A” tab above then scroll to the “Detective Leavelle” entry.]

Armstrong writes that during Lovelady’s testimony, he “volunteered (his emphasis) that he saw ‘Vickie’ when he returned to the building.” That is not accurate. Here’s what Lovelady said: “I saw a girl, but I wouldn’t swear to it it’s Vickie [sic]. Armstrong’s mistake is as bad as the Commission’s conclusion: “On entering, Lovelady saw a girl on the first floor who he believes was Victoria Adams.” Shelley, by the way, said he didn’t see Vicki on the first floor, a detail Armstrong overlooks.

In a September 1964 internal memo, Warren Commission counsel Wesley Liebeler wrote this about Vicki:

“Victoria Adams testified that she came down the stairway within about 1 minute after the shots, from the fourth floor to the first floor where she encountered two Depository employees—Bill Shelley and Billy Lovelady. If Miss Adams was on the stairway at that time, the question is raised as to why she did not see Oswald…”

But notice how Armstrong inserts additional words into Liebeler’s comment when he quotes the attorney as saying this instead:

“Victoria Adams testified that she came down the stairway, within about 1 minute after the shots, from the fourth floor to the first floor where she encountered two Depository employees—Bill Shelley and Billy Lovelady. If Adams saw these two men on the 1st floor, near the freight elevators and stairway, only one minute after the shooting, then how could Oswald have [run] down the stairs from the 6th to the 2nd floor at the same time?”

If you follow his argument, then this explains the excess verbiage.

And although he is quick to condemn Vicki for her 40-year-old assertion, he uses as further support for his thesis a comment Buell Wesley Frazier made for the first time at the 50th anniversary of JFK’s death. He said he saw Oswald emerge from the rear of the Depository shortly after the assassination.  It’s only natural to suspect he does this to support his construct.

__________

(See related items by clicking on the “Q&A” tab above.)

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Howard Willens Redux

In August of this year, I emailed Howard Willens, one of the writers of the Warren Report and author of “History Will Prove Us Right,” to clarify some details regarding an upcoming blog post I was preparing. Although I had not asked him anything on this go around about Victoria Adams, he volunteered the following in his reply:

“Of the many witnesses who were interviewed or testified, there was one woman who said that if Oswald had descended from the sixth floor after the shooting, she would have seen him. I gather from your previous work that you believe she was credible and that the Commission should have given more weight to her testimony.  No one questions the integrity of that witness and many others whose testimony was not relied on in the Report. The Commission concluded that all the contrary evidence outweighed the recollections of this particular witness.  Her testimony was carefully considered by the lawyers preparing the draft section of the report and all those who reviewed that draft, including the Commission members, before the report was finished and published.”

It is unfortunate, but Willens’ response is an example of how facts in this case are being sold short and his particular brand of “history” is simply being fudged. Here’s why:

“…there was one woman who said that if Oswald had descended from the sixth floor after the shooting, she would have seen him.”

False. The unnamed “woman,” aka Vicki Adams, never once said anything remotely similar to what Willens has written here. In reality, it was the Warren Report that implied as much, saying, “If her estimate of time is correct, she reached the bottom of the stairs before Truly and Baker started up, and she must have run down the stairs ahead of Oswald and would probably have seen or heard him [my emphasis]. At no point in her testimony does Vicki say she would have seen Oswald had he at that time been escaping down the stairs.

“The Commission concluded that all the contrary evidence outweighed the recollections of this particular witness.” 

All the contrary evidence? You mean like the publicly suppressed Martha Joe Stroud document that corroborated Vicki’s immediate descent—a document the Commission had in hand three months before concluding she came down much later? Like Dorothy Garner (not questioned by the Commission) who verified both what Vicki did and what was written in that document? Like the weak and at-odds testimonies of Shelley and Lovelady relied on by the Commission? Like Sandra Styles (also neglected by the Commission) who accompanied Vicki and verified that Shelley and Lovelady, two she knew well, weren’t where the Commission presumed them to be? Like David Belin who, upon introducing himself to Vicki, said he didn’t believe a word she was saying? Like Vicki being the only one excluded from the time tests of Oswald’s escape, even though she begged Belin to be included?

“Her testimony was carefully considered by the lawyers preparing the draft section of the report and all those who reviewed that draft, including the Commission members…”

I find it absolutely impossible to believe that men of that caliber could “carefully consider” her testimony while overlooking such “contrary evidence” that, on the contrary, proved she was right and gave every indication of not outweighing “the recollections of this particular witness.” What the Commission did to minimize Vicki Adams was wrong.

And they knew it.

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Mr. Willens

In a 1964 internal memo, Warren Report co-author Howard P. Willens wrote, “In a discussion, the Commission could rely on some witnesses and reject the testimony of others, such as Victoria Adams.”

His comment was in reference to the Report’s chapter that dealt with Oswald’s escape from the sixth floor. What always intrigued me was the inclusion of her name and her name alone.

Was it because the Commission had conducted a thorough look-see into Vicki’s claims and found them to be without merit? But that couldn’t be because, despite its promise to do so in her specific case, the Commission had done no such thing. In fact, it had avoided just such an examination.

So what then was the basis for her rejection?

We might discover a clue from Willens’ 1978 testimony before the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) where he discussed his role on the Warren Commission. During that appearance he said, “We thought it was important to have a fair and comprehensive treatment of the evidence. We also thought it would be desirable to support the Commission’s conclusions in as useful and as persuasive a way as possible.”

(The reader should note that those conclusions regarding Oswald’s guilt were spelled out in January 1964, a month before the Commission would call its first witness to the stand.)

Willens’ explanation prompted a related HSCA question: “Do I understand you correctly to be saying that where information or evidence might have been subjected to sharp challenge in an adversary proceeding there was an inclination of the Commission staff not to rely on it but to rely instead on evidence that could not have been as sharply criticized or challenged?”

“That certainly was a general effort,” Willens admitted. “I don’t know how well it was achieved in the overall Report but I do know that it was of particular concern with respect to the evidence implicating Lee Harvey Oswald.”

Was that it? Were Vicki’s words considered a “sharp challenge”? Would she have presented a problem in an adversary proceeding where the facts were honestly being sought? Although her testimony was not officially rejected, as Willens first recommended, its substance certainly met that fate.

In 2013, Willens continued with the same mindset. He failed to mention Vicki or her important trip down the stairs in his commemorative 50th-anniversary book,untitled “History Will Prove Us Right: Inside the Warren Commission Report on the Assassination of John F. Kennedy.” He would though cite the more “useful” and “persuasive” bits and pieces.

After reading his book for a third time, I obtained the author’s email address through his publisher. I wanted to see if he’d provide some clarification on several issues.

“If you have a serious question about who did it,” he responded, “further correspondence is probably a waste of your time and mine. If that is not the case, then by all means send me your questions.”

And so I did.

Why was Victoria Adams singled out in that 1964 memo? If when she came down the stairs was so vital, as David Belin and others on the Commission staff implied as early as February 1964, why wasn’t she included in the timed re-enactments of Oswald’s escape? In that same regard, why weren’t the three women who stood next to Vicki at the window questioned, particularly Sandra Styles who accompanied Vicki down the stairs? Why did the Commission elevate the times of when Vicki said she left her office and when she said she arrived on the first floor?

“I do not see any important issue involved here,” Willens generalized in reply. “There is no doubt that Oswald descended on the stairs. There is no doubt that [Vicki] did likewise. If they were on the stairs at the same time, she might have, or might not have, heard his steps. Her testimony was not rejected because she did not see or hear him.

Willens

Howard Willens

“In fact,” Willens went on, “the Report relies on the testimony of other witnesses, as well as hers, to try and reconstruct the events in the Depository in the minutes after the assassination. The Report states that she saw Shelley and Lovelady ‘when she reached the first floor.’ This is consistent with the testimony of Shelley and Lovelady to the effect that they ‘entered the building by the rear door several minutes after Baker and Truly rushed through the front entrance.’ Upon entering they saw a young lady who they believed was Miss Adams. All three witnesses agree on seeing each other on the first floor.”

Let’s closely examine that last paragraph:

“The Report states that she saw Shelley and Lovelady ‘when she reached the first floor.'”

The Report does indeed cite a portion of Vicki’s testimony in which she is quoted as saying she saw those men on the first floor.

“This is consistent with the testimony of Shelley and Lovelady to the effect that they ‘entered the building by the rear door several minutes after Baker and Truly rushed through the front entrance.'”

Both men did in fact testify to remaining outside the Depository for several minutes before returning to the first floor.

“Upon entering they saw a young lady who they believed was Miss Adams.”

Here is where Willens is blatantly wrong. His use of the word “they,” in two instances no less, implies both Shelley and Lovelady saw a young lady who each man thought was Vicki Adams. That is not true, however. Both men did not say they saw a young lady, and both men did not say that young lady was believed to be Miss Adams.

This is what William Shelley said:

 

Q: When you came into the shipping room did you see anybody?
A: I saw Eddie Piper.
Q: Who else did you see?
A: That’s all we saw immediately.
Q: Did you ever see Vickie [sic] Adams?
A: I saw her that day but I don’t remember where I saw her…I thought it was on the fourth floor a while after that.

 

Cross off Shelley, who does not recall seeing Vicki on the first floor but rather on the floor where she actually worked, later that day. What about Billy Lovelady?

 

Q: Who did you see in the first floor?
A: I saw a girl but I wouldn’t swear to it it’s Vickie [sic].

 

A most curious statement for Lovelady to make since, in all of his testimony up to that point, “Vickie” or “Vicki” or any other derivation or reference to that name had not been mentioned. Continuing:

 

Q: Who is Vickie?
A: The girl that works for Scott Foresman.
Q: What is her full name?
A: I wouldn’t know.
Q: Vickie Adams?
A: I believe so.
Q: Would you say it was Vickie you saw?
A: I couldn’t swear.
Q: Where was the girl?
A: I don’t remember what place she was but I remember seeing a girl and she was talking to Bill or something….

 

But “Bill” said he saw only employee Eddie Piper and no one else. He didn’t mention speaking with anyone or being spoken to, let alone it being Vicki Adams. And did Lovelady’s comments really justify the Warren Report’s assertion that, “On entering, Lovelady saw a girl on the first floor who he believes was Victoria Adams”?

“All three witnesses agree on seeing each other on the first floor.”

Obviously, this is not true either. And like the Warren Report before him, Willens ignored Sandra Styles, a fourth member of this first floor meet-and-greet, and clearly an important one. Her corroborative value is significant, as is the fact she knew both Shelley and Lovelady yet is adamant in saying they were not on the first floor when the girls arrived there.

Investigators David Belin and Howard Willens

David Belin (left) with Willens on first floor of TSBD, March 1964

In my follow-up email I brought all this to Willens’ attention, and reiterated everything regular followers of this blog have read concerning Vicki. I mentioned Vicki’s strong denial to ever having said she saw Shelley and Lovelady on the first floor, and the evidence that is consistent with that denial. I also sent him a copy of the Martha Joe Stroud letter, explaining its sinister implications and reminding him that, for some reason, it had been suppressed from public view for 35 years.

“I don’t mean to be argumentative,” I wrote, “but bearing all this in mind, what are your thoughts?”

I suppose I pigeonholed myself into that “sharp challenge” category.

Months later, I’m still awaiting a reply.

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Further Corroboration

As previously mentioned, it’s always fascinating to hear from the people who once knew Victoria Adams. To a one, they corroborate her character. Here’s a recent example:
Mr. Ernest,  
Miss Adams was my 6th grade teacher at IHM Catholic School in 1961-1962! She was the best teacher I ever had at all levels. She taught all subjects well, but it was her enthusiastic, positive attitude that amazed me!
She was different from all other teachers because she let us know it was important to be yourself! Miss Adams had guest speakers from the community. Once a detective spoke to the class about the importance of paying attention to detail. When he left, she said “take out a piece of paper and write down everything you noticed about our speaker”!! The winner got a prize for how much he had noticed about our guest, his clothes, his mannerisms, even how long he spoke.
We had a class Christmas party, off school grounds, which she arranged. She asked me to be Santa, dress up and have each student sit on my lap and tell me what they wanted for Christmas! She made me feel like a leader! I was not an artist, but had a sense of humor! She helped me win a craft contest on the Bible and manners. Her hint about the Garden of Eden and Ladies First (the 1st apple bite) was the reason I won! Several times a year, I would think of Miss Adams and how she truly changed my life!
      I decided to find her and thank her for all she meant to me! I found your book on the internet! I ordered your book and can’t wait to read it! “Miss Adams” changed my life! Thank you for defending this incredible lady! She always told the truth and was a stickler for details!
Thank you,
David

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